Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PopClandSATYRICON (Popular readers and clandestine literature: the case of an early modern translation of Petronius’ Satyricon into Italian (17th C.))
Reporting period: 2016-10-01 to 2018-09-30
In all probability, the manuscript translation, that currently belongs to the Biblioteca Angelica of Rome, represents a clandestine publication, hand-copied to avoid censorship.
The project was hosted at the CRH (Centres de Recherches Historiques) of the EHESS (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales) in Paris within the Grihl (‘Groupe de Recherches Interdisciplinaires sur l'Histoire du Littéraire’), an interdisciplinary research group exploring literary practises in their social and historical context.
One of the main project goals was to assess how the translator adapted a sophisticated work such as the ‘Satyricon’ to a public of non-Latined readers. The project also aimed at an overall evaluation of Petronius’ reception as a forbidden author.
Given such a stratification of hands, we can only estimate the original translation practise by the author. In any case, the Italian translation stands out for its strict adherence to the Latin text. Thus, it was defined as ‘vehicular’, that is, merely functional to make Petronius’ text accessible to the un-Latined. By no means the translator has emphasised the explicit erotic contents of the ‘Satyricon’; instead, the ‘Machiavellian’ aptitude of Petronius’ characters has been skilfully rendered in the Italian version. Further, the translation, at least as transmitted in the manuscript, clearly shows the effort made to simplify any erudite reference originally present in the Latin text.
The manuscript that transmits the Italian translation was realised by a professional scribe. Despite the manuscript neat and clear appearance, the quality of the scribal work is poor: we have graphic inconsistencies, misspellings, interferences with dialect. The manuscript itself is poor from a material point of view. Those elements prove that it was destined to a rather undemanding public. The accurate analysis of the manuscript (examination of the punctuation, textual division, use of catchwords) has also suggested that the manuscript may have been not produced for visual, individual reading but rather to be read out loud. That means that even the illiterate may have been exposed to the forbidden contents of the ‘Satyricon’ by the means of collective reading (a common practise at the time).
In its conclusions, the research argues that the reception of the 'Satyricon' as a transgressive work has not to be restrained to its Epicurean themes (such as irreligiousness and hedonism), but should also be put in relation with the well-known parodic component of Petronius’ work. The ‘Satyricon’ can in fact be read as an irreverent and immoral upturning not so much of conventional literature (as suggested by Petronian critics), but of the traditional values (chastity, loyalty, religious devotion) transmitted by conventional literature, and imposed by the established order. Additionally, the research has investigated the success within libertine circles of the tale told in the ‘Satyricon’(known as ‘The Widow of Ephesus’) and the satirical elements in Petronius’ work.
The research originality, the quality of its achievements and its interdisciplinary approach (ranging from the methods of reception and translation studies, textual and literary criticism, to cultural and intellectual studies) extend the impact of the project to a large and differentiated public of specialists. However, the project potential impact is not limited to the academic world. In fact, the research results are meant to reach secondary school teachers of Philosophy and History, in order to diffuse an updated interpretation of 17th-century libertinism and of Italian Late Renaissance, commonly perceived as an age of mere obscurantism and decadence. Additionally, the research exemplifies the fruitfulness of interdisciplinarity and invites to avoid rigid divisions between History, Philosophy and Literature.